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Fake identities, phoney reporting, and the ‘Inside Syria Media Center’

Counterpunch exposes a fake reporting project

Alexander Mercouris

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Two weeks ago, on 5th January 2018, Counterpunch published its follow up investigation to the previous investigation it had carried out into the mysterious personality of “Alice Donovan”, a writer whose pieces both Counterpunch and The Duran had published, and who the Washington Post had  exposed following a tip-off from the FBI to be a fictitious personality, with the FBI alleging that she was a Russian intelligence concoction.

Over the course of its previous investigation of “Alice Donovan” Counterpunch did indeed provide strong grounds for doubting that she is a real person.  Counterpunch also discovered that her “writings” depended heavily on plagiarism of other writers’ work.

In the aftermath of Counterpunch’s article we deleted the “Alice Donovan’s” articles which we had published and I wrote an article for The Duran in which I discussed the affair and Counterpunch’s role in exposing it.

Counterpunch’s original investigation of “Alice Donovan” however also raised questions about a writer who The Duran has also published called Sophie (or Sophia) Mangal, as well as the Inside Syria Media Center, which Sophie Mangal has claimed to work for.

Sophie Mangal is the writer whom “Alice Donovan” has most heavily plagiarised, and the seemingly close connection between Sophie Mangal and “Alice Donovan” led Counterpunch to make further enquiries about her.

At this point I should say that The Duran is very familiar with Sophie Mangal.  Over the two years of our existence she has flooded us with literally scores of submissions, the overwhelming majority of which were about the Syrian war.  All of these submissions took a strongly pro-Syrian government position.

Sophie Mangal’s submissions however tended to be very brief and one dimensional, lacking much in the way of analysis and context.  Accordingly, though we are always willing to consider submissions, in Sophie Mangal’s case we only felt able to publish a few of them.

This however did not seem to deter her in the slightest.  We still continued to receive submissions from her at a prodigious rate.

Unlike “Alice Donovan” Sophie Mangal did however appear to have a genuine personality.

I actually corresponded with her on the subject of the draft constitution the Russian government proposed for Syria, which was discussed some months ago at the Astana talks, and of which the Inside Syria Media Center sent us a copy.  The replies I got were definitely written by a real person.  In the article I subsequently wrote about this draft constitution I acknowledged Sophie Mangal’s help and that of the Inside Syria Media Center’s in writing it.

Counterpunch’s latest investigation has however exposed how threadbare the background of Sophie Mangal’s personality actually is.

It turns out that apart from a mountain of articles, a single photograph (see caption) and a few emails there is no independent trace of her.  Attempts to check facts she has provided about her background have led nowhere.

Moreover it has turned out that just as “Alice Donovan” has been plagiarising articles by Sophie Mangal, so Sophie Mangal has been plagiarising articles by other writers.

Moreover Counterpunch’s enquiries about Sophie Mangal raised serious questions about the reality of yet another writer who also seemed to have some connection to the Inside Syria Media Center.  This was Anna Jaunger, some of whose articles The Duran has also published.

It turns out that not only was there not much evidence for the actual existence of Anna Jaunger, but plagiarism appeared to be involved in her work as well, and – even more seriously – there was also clear evidence of identity theft, with the photograph “Anna Jaunger” has provided of herself being the stolen photograph of another woman.

Overall Counterpunch’s investigation exposes what looks like a veritable labyrinth of invisible or non-existent writers hiding behind concocted identities and fabricated life stories, with all of this somehow connected to the Inside Syria Media Center, and with the entire project depending heavily on plagiarism to give its mathematically prodigious output at least some appearance of substance.

Counterpunch’s discoveries raise serious questions which require full answers.

I accordingly took down Sophie Mangal’s and Anna Jaunger’s articles which The Duran had published and immediately emailed both Sophie Mangal and Mariam Al-Hijab, the editor in chief of the Inside Syria Media Center, saying that there were serious questions about their work which urgently required answers, and asking them to contact me to explain themselves.

To my astonishment instead of receiving a reply what I got from Sophie Mangal was two new submissions, both on the topic of the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme and both sent via the same email server – mail.com – which Counterpunch had flagged in its investigation.  The second of these submissions came with a brief introductory email which reads as follows

Dear colleague, this is the special investigative correspondent, Sophie Mangal.
I submit here my new article in English and kindly request that you look into the possibility of publishing it on your website.

The first submission did not come with any message.

Further requests sent to Sophie Mangal since we received these submissions have gone unanswered.  I now believe that Sophie Mangal’s emails attaching her two latest submissions were machine generated, and were triggered automatically by the emails I had sent her.  Presumably following the exposure the device which generated these emails has been turned off.

In other words I now think that there is no longer any actual person at the other end of the email address which we have used in the past to correspond with Sophie Mangal.

If I am wrong about this, then I invite Sophie Mangal and Mariam Al-Hijab to contact me in order to explain themselves and to put me right.  However I now inform them in advance that should they do so I will consider myself duty bound to share whatever explanation and information they give me with other concerned websites, including of course Counterpunch.

Assuming that I don’t hear from Sophie Mangal and Mariam Al-Hijab – as I expect – what conclusions can be drawn from this strange affair?

Firstly, it is clear that some sort of organisation is involved, and that someone has gone to some trouble to set up what increasingly looks like a media centre with dummy reporters to spread stories about the Syrian war.

I say this because based on Counterpunch’s investigation the “Inside Syria Media Center” despite having a live website has something of the appearance of a phantom, much as Sophie Mangal now does.

At this point it is important to say that a distinction must be made between a concocted and completely fictitious identity and a genuine writer who writes under a pseudonym.  “Alice Donovan” and probably “Anna Jaunger” look to be the former not the latter, and one should not confuse the two.

Secondly, though this project has generated a massive amount of raw output in the two or so years of its existence, it has remarkably little to show for the resources which have been put into it.

Some articles have been published on some sites – including unfortunately ours – but they have added precisely nothing to the overall debate, and there is not a scintilla of evidence that they have swayed anyone.  All that they have done is badly duplicate the work of actual writers, some of whom they have plagiarised.

I am not going to venture a guess as to who is behind this project, save to say (1) that if it is an intelligence agency then its crudeness argues strongly against it being the intelligence agency of any of the major powers; and (2) all the indications are this project has its origins in the Middle East.

As to the FBI’s theory that Russian intelligence is behind “Alice Donovan”, not only have I seen no evidence for this, but the sheer crudeness of this project to my mind all but rules that idea out.

Putting aside that there is no obvious motive for Russian intelligence to set up a project of this kind, its botched implementation makes it inconceivable to me that the Russians could have been involved in it.

I appreciate when I say this that I may be attributing to Russian intelligence more sophistication and intelligence than it actually has.

However everything that I have heard about Russian intelligence suggests that it is very sophisticated and intelligent indeed, which makes it impossible for me to believe that it could have been involved in a crude and amateurish project like this.

That is all that I feel that it is possible to say about this strange affair.  Moreover despite Counterpunch’s painstaking and thorough efforts I doubt that we will now ever learn the full truth.  Whoever is behind this project now knows they have been exposed and will take whatever precautions they can in order to conceal themselves.

In the meantime Counterpunch deserves everyone’s thanks for exposing this troubling and frankly ugly sham.

In the present heated atmosphere distinguishing fact from fiction in today’s news is becoming difficult enough.  If this affair shows anything it is that we now also need to be on our guard about some of the purported messengers of that news.

Cynics will no doubt rightly say that it was ever thus.  Still it is good to be reminded of it from time to time, and we at The Duran certainly will try to learn this lesson.  In the meantime we can only apologise to our readers for letting ourselves be gulled in the way that we were.

We also express our thanks to Counterpunch for putting us right, and for all the hard work they have done in exposing this ugly sham.

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US media suffers panic attack after Mueller fails to deliver on much-anticipated Trump indictment

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

RT

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Via RT


Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment.

The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Showing true integrity, journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. They are, after all, true professionals.

“How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on CNN’s ‘Hardball’.

Dilanian tried to comfort the CNN host with some of his signature NBC punditry.

“My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused.

Actually, there were several Serious Journalists who used their unsurpassed analytical abilities to conjure up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious.

Revered news organs were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings.

“What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s tragic announcement.

Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

But perhaps the most sobering reactions to the no-indictment news came from those who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Mueller’s investigation, aimed at uncovering a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, ended without digging up a single case of “collusion.”

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison.

“You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery.

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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Canadian Lawmaker Accuses Trudeau Of Being A “Fake Feminist” (Video)

Rempel segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career

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Via Zerohedge

Canada’s feminist-in-chief Justin Trudeau wants to support and empower women…but his support stops at the point where said women start creating problems for his political agenda.

That was the criticism levied against the prime minister on Friday by a conservative lawmaker, who took the PM to task for “muzzling strong, principled women” during a debate in the House of Commons.

“He asked for strong women, and this is what they look like!” said conservative MP Michelle Rempel, referring to the former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has accused Trudeau and his cronies of pushing her out of the cabinet after she refused to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.

She then accused Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”.

“That’s not what a feminist looks like…Every day that he refuses to allow the attorney general to testify and tell her story is another day he’s a fake feminist!”

Trudeau was so taken aback by Rempel’s tirade, that he apparently forgot which language he should respond in.

But Rempel wasn’t finished. She then segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career. This from a man who once objected to the continued use of the word “mankind” (suggesting we use “peoplekind” instead).

The conservative opposition then tried to summon Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Commons for another hearing (during her last appearance, she shared her account of how the PM and employees in the PM’s office and privy council barraged her with demands that she quash the government’s pursuit of SNC-Lavalin over charges that the firm bribed Libyan government officials). Wilson-Raybould left the Trudeau cabinet after she was abruptly moved to a different ministerial post – a move that was widely seen as a demotion.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he put in a good word on the firm’s behalf with Wilson-Raybould, but insists that he always maintained the final decision on the case was hers and hers alone.

Fortunately for Canadians who agree with Rempel, it’s very possible that Trudeau – who has so far resisted calls to resign – won’t be in power much longer, as the scandal has cost Trudeau’s liberals the lead in the polls for the October election.

 

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Why Joe May be Courting Stacey

Joe Biden has a history on compulsory integration dating back to the 1970s that Sen. Jesse Helms called “enlightened.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


Of 895 slots in the freshman class of Stuyvesant High in New York City, seven were offered this year to black students, down from 10 last year and 13 the year before.

In the freshman class of 803 at The Bronx High School of Science, 12 students are black, down from last year’s 25.

Of 303 students admitted to Staten Island Technical High School, one is African-American.

According to The New York Times, similar patterns of admission apply at the other five most elite high schools in the city.

Whites and Asians are 30 percent of middle school students, but 83 percent of the freshman at Bronx High School of Science, 88 percent at Staten Island Technical and 90 percent at Stuyvesant.

What do these numbers tell us?

They reveal the racial composition of the cohort of scientists and technicians who will lead America in the 21st century. And they tell us which races will not be well represented in that vanguard.

They identify a fault line that runs through the Democratic Party, separating leftists who believe in equality of results for all races and ethnic groups, and those who believe in a meritocracy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed anger and frustration at the under-representation of blacks and Hispanics in the elite schools. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have ignored his pleas to change the way students are admitted.

Currently, the same test, of English and math, is given to middle school applicants. And admission to the elite eight is offered to those who get the highest scores.

Moreover, Asians, not whites, are predominant.

Though 15 percent of all middle school students, Asians make up two-thirds of the student body at Stuyvesant, with 80 times as many slots as their African-American classmates.

The egalitarian wing of the Democratic Party sees this as inherently unjust. And what gives this issue national import are these factors:

First, the recent scandal where rich parents paid huge bribes to criminal consultants to get their kids into elite colleges, by falsifying records of athletic achievement and cheating on Scholastic Aptitude Tests, has caused a wave of populist resentment.

Second, Harvard is being sued for systemic reverse racism, as black and Hispanic students are admitted with test scores hundreds of points below those that would disqualify Asians and whites.

Third, Joe Biden has a history on compulsory integration dating back to the 1970s that Sen. Jesse Helms called “enlightened.”

Here are Biden’s quotes, unearthed by The Washington Post, that reflect his beliefs about forced busing for racial balance in public schools:

“The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with.

“What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That’s racist!

“Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?

“I am philosophically opposed to quota systems. They insure mediocrity.”

That was 44 years ago. While those views were the thinking of many Democrats, and perhaps of most Americans, in the mid-’70s, they will be problematic in the 2020 primaries, where African-Americans could be decisive in the contests that follow Iowa and New Hampshire.

Biden knows that just as Bernie Sanders, another white male, fell short in crucial South Carolina because of a lack of support among black voters, he, too, has a problem with that most loyal element in the Democratic coalition.

In 1991, Biden failed to rise to the defense of Anita Hill when she charged future Justice Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was a law-and-order champion responsible for tough anti-crime legislation that is now regarded as discriminatory.

And he has a record on busing for racial balance that made him a de facto ally of Louise Day Hicks of the Boston busing case fame.

How, with a record like this, does Biden inoculate himself against attacks by rival candidates, especially candidates of color, in his run for the nomination?

One way would be to signal to his party that he has grown, he has changed, and his 2020 running mate will be a person of color. Perhaps he’ll run with a woman of color such as Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia.

An ancillary benefit would be that Abrams on the ticket would help him carry Georgia, a state Donald Trump probably cannot lose and win re-election.

Wrote Axios this morning:

“Close advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president.”


Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”

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